Browsing "Emancipation"

John Laurens, South Carolina Emancipator

Though John Laurens intention to emancipate and arm African slaves was intended to blunt the actions of Lord Dunmore’s Virginia emancipation proclamation of 1775 which fomented race war, which Lincoln later copied, South Carolina had earlier considered arming slaves for community defense. This shows too that using slaves as armed combatants with freedom as a reward predates the War Between the States, and an inevitable strategy, both offensive and defensive, given the great numbers of Africans brought to North America by British and New England slave ships.

Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.com

 

John Laurens, South Carolina Emancipator

[Laurens] fought in the Battle of Brandywine, was wounded at Germantown, and spent the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge on Washington’s staff. At Monmouth the following summer he escaped unscathed when his horse was shot from under him . . . during the late summer of 1778 he had served as liaison officer between the French and American commands during the joint attack on Rhode Island. His linguistic ability made him popular with the French officers and useful to Washington who spoke no French at all.

Nevertheless, Laurens was able to prevail upon his commander to send him back to South Carolina where he hoped to raise and lead a regiment of blacks against the British in the South. Early in 1778 John Laurens broached the matter to his father, who was then president of the Continental Congress. “I would solicit you to cede me a number of your able-bodied men slaves, instead of leaving me a fortune,” he wrote.

Formed into a unit and trained, they might render important service during the next campaign, he argued. What is amazing about his plan, though, is not merely that he was willing to surrender a large part of his inheritance in order to augment the Continental Army — practically everything he did during the Revolution testifies to his willingness to sacrifice his own private interest in favor of the general welfare. Nor is it even that he was willing to arm the slaves — South Carolinians had considered that step during earlier emergencies.

Rather, the astonishing aspects of his proposal are its candor, its boldness and its lager purpose. Service in the revolutionary army would be a stepping-stone to freedom — “a proper gradation between abject slavery and perfect liberty,” which would not only prepare a slave to take his place in free society but also establish his claim to it. In short, his was a clever and far-reaching plan for the gradual abolition of slavery.

A year later, after the fall of Savannah, however, the obvious need for additional manpower led Congress to urge the Southern States to enlist three thousand blacks, who would be freed at the end of the war.”

(The Last of American Freemen, Robert M. Weir, Mercer University Press, 1986, excerpts, pp. 90-94)

 

Southern Plan of Gradual Emancipation

Many influential persons in the antebellum South promoted an end to the colonial labor system inherited from the British, and truly sincere New England abolitionists could easily have assisted in devising a compensated emancipation solution as Britain had done in the 1840s. Also, had New England cotton mills and Manhattan banks not accepted slave-produced cotton or ceased planter-expansion loans, slavery might have ended peacefully.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Plan of Gradual Emancipation

“Pioneers in the struggle for public schools in Virginia were Henry Ruffner, president of Washington College, and his son William Henry Ruffner, who in 1870 became the first superintendent of public instruction in Virginia.

[The elder] Ruffner was a man of much native ability. Through private study he became distinguished for his scholarship, literary talent and eloquence. He was appointed professor in Washington College in 1819 and was made president in 1836, in which position he served until 1848.

Ruffner was an early advocate of the gradual emancipation of the slaves and published a pamphlet in 1847, entitled “An Address to the People of West Virginia; shewing that slavery is injurious to the public welfare, and that it may be gradually abolished, without detriment to the rights and interests of slaveholders.” This address was delivered before the Franklin Society in Lexington, Virginia, at the request of John Letcher (afterwards “War Governor”) and others.

Ruffner made an analysis of slavery from the standpoint of a slaveholder, showing the evils of the system, not only to the slaves, but to their masters as well, pointing out the wastefulness of the system, the advances that had been made by the free States in population, wealth, and education as compared with the slave States since the Revolution, and the isolation that slavery had brought to the South.

It was a powerful argument against slavery and proposed a method for its abolition. Free from religious, fanatical or sentimental cant, it was a dispassionate, economic analysis of a system to which he himself belonged.”

(Universal Education in the South, Charles W. Dabney, Volume I, UNC Press, 1936, excerpt, pp. 81-82)

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

Writer Timothy Flint travelled the Mississippi Valley in the early 1800’s and his recollections were published in 1826. After witnessing firsthand the conditions on plantations, Flint cautioned patience and gradualism to erase the stain of slavery in the United States as the fanatic abolitionists would be incautious and rash in their bloody resolution to the question. This underscores the unfortunate fact that abolitionists advanced no practical and peaceful solutions to the matter of slavery in the United States. Only war to the knife.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

“[Prior to Northern slavery agitation], The Southern people were beginning to esteem and regard the northern character. The term “yankee” began to be a term rather of respect than reproach.

It is easy to see how soon this will all be reversed, if we incautiously and rashly intermeddle in this matter. Let us hear for a moment, the Southern planter speak for himself, for I remark that if you introduce the subject with any delicacy, I have never yet heard one, who does not admit that slavery is an evil and an injustice, and who does not at least affect to deplore the evil.

[The Southern planter] says, that be the evil so great, and the thing ever so unjust, it has always existed among the Jews, in the families of the patriarchs, in the republics of Greece and Rome, and that the right of the master in his slave, is clearly recognized in St. Paul; that it has been transmitted down through successive ages, to the colonization of North America, and that it existed in Massachusetts as well as the other States.

“You,” they add, “had but a few. Your climate admitted the labour of the whites. You freed them because it is less expensive to till your lands with free hands, than with slaves. We have a scorching sun, and an enfeebling climate.  The African constitution can alone support labour under such circumstances.

We of course had many slaves. Our fathers felt the necessity, and yielding to the expediency of the case. They have entailed the enormous and growing evil upon us. Take them from us and you render the Southern country a desert. You destroy the great staples of the country, and what is worse, you find no way in which to dispose of the millions that you emancipate.”

If we [of the North] reply, that we cannot violate a principle, for the sake of expediency, they return upon us with the question, “What is to be done? The deplorable condition of the emancipated slaves in this country is sufficient proof, that we cannot emancipate them here.

Turn them all loose at once, and ignorant and reckless as they are of the use and value of freedom, they would devour and destroy the subsistence of years, in a day, and for want of other objects upon which to prey, would prey upon one another. It is a chronic moral evil, the growth of ages, and such diseases are always aggravated by violent and harsh remedies.  Leave us to ourselves, or point out the way in which we can gently heal this great malady, not at once, but in a regimen of years. The evil must come off as it came on, by slow and gradual method of cure.”

In this method of cure, substitutes would be gradually found for their labor. The best modes of instructing them in the value of freedom, and rendering them comfortable and happy in the enjoyment of it, would be gradually marled out. They should be taught to read, and imbued with the principles, and morals of the gospel.

Every affectionate appeal should be made to the humanity, and the better feelings of the masters. In the region where I live, the masters allow entire liberty to the slaves to attend public worship, and as far as my knowledge extends, it is generally the case in Louisiana. In some plantations they have a jury of Negroes to try offences under the eye of the master, as judge, and it generally happens that he is obliged to mitigate the severity of their sentence.”

(Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi, Timothy Flint; George Brooks, editor, Southern Illinois University Press, 1968, pp. 246-249)

Consolidating the Northern Triumph

At North Carolina’s 1867 State convention at Raleigh, Northerners were actively creating Republican Party organizations in every county, and all featured the revival of secret political societies like the Heroes of America and the infamous Union League. White Republicans were quick to realize that mobilizing the black vote was the key to dominating and controlling Southern politics. As Joseph G. de R. Hamilton wrote in “Reconstruction in North Carolina (1914, pg. 242), “In a spectacular way the colored delegates were given a prominent place in the convention. Most of the white speakers expressed delight at the advancement of the Negroes to the right of suffrage.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidating the Northern Triumph

“With the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment and the elimination of slavery, every African-American was counted as one person and not three-fifths of a person for purposes of congressional representation.

If the white and black voters of the South united, the southern and Northern Democrats could possibly control both houses of Congress. The Republican Party went into panic mode – what was to be done?

The answer was simple: export racial hatred from the North to the South with a little twist. Instead of white people being taught to hate black people, as was so common in New England, Republicans would teach Southern black voters to fear and hate Southern white voters.

It should be pointed out that most Northern States at that time still prohibited African-Americans from voting. By mobilizing a large bloc of angry black voters and prohibiting large numbers of white Southern voters from exercising the right to vote, the Republican Party insured its rule in Washington.

The Republican Party’s fear of a racially untied South was made even more frightening when former Confederate leaders spoke out in favor of black/white unity. Just a few months after the close of the War, from New Orleans, General [PGT] Beauregard stated:

“The Negro is Southern born; with a little education and some property qualifications he can be made to take sufficient interest in the affairs and prosperity of the South to insure an intelligent vote.”

No one can question the Confederate General who is slandered the most as an evil racist is Nathan Bedford Forrest. In a speech to a group of black voters, Forrest reflected the goodwill that had existed before Republican Reconstruction, He states:

“We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live in the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters . . . I want you to do as I do – go to the polls and select the best men to vote for . . . although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment . . . do your duty as citizens, and if any are oppressed, I will be your friend.”

The use of race-hatred became a very successful Republican tool to divide the South into warring parties. These warring parties, both black and white, failed to realize that in the process of enriching Republican industrialists, bankers and politicians, they were at the same time impoverishing themselves.”

(Punished with Poverty: The Suffering South, Prosperity to Poverty & the Continuing Struggle; James & Walter Kennedy, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 65-66)

“Jim Crow” Sections Up North

When discussing segregation and Jim Crow laws in America one immediately thinks of the South, though it was truly a Northern institution that gradually made its way South. New York did not eliminate slavery officially until the late 1820’s, though the children of slaves remained in bondage until reaching age 21. That State also habitually restricted the black vote through property-holding qualifications that effectively disenfranchised them.  The State of Ohio outright refused black settlers, and the new Republican party of 1856 was not antislavery — it wanted to ban black people from the western territories and restrict slavery to the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Jim Crow” Sections Up North

“One of the strangest things about the career of Jim Crow was that the system was born in the North and reached an advanced age before moving South . . . and one might consider Northern conditions with profit. By 1830 slavery was virtually abolished by one means or another throughout the North, with only about 3500 Negroes remaining in bondage in the nominally free States.

The Northern free Negro [had his or her freedom] circumscribed in many ways . . . the Northern Negro was made painfully aware that he lived in a society dedicated to the doctrine of white supremacy and Negro inferiority. The major political parties, whatever their positions on slavery, vied with each other on this doctrine, and extremely few politicians of importance dared question them.

Their [Northern] constituencies firmly believed that the Negroes were incapable of being assimilated politically, socially, or physically into white society. They made sure in numerous ways that the Negro understood his “place” and that he was severely confined to it. One of these ways was segregation, and with the backing of legal and extra-legal codes, the system permeated all aspects of Negro life in the free States by 1860.

Leon Litwack, in his authoritative account, “North of Slavery,” describes the system in full development. “In virtually every phase of existence,” he writes, “Negroes found themselves systematically separated from whites.

They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches, and steamboats or assigned to special “Jim Crow” sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theaters and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in “Negro pews” in the white churches, and if partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, they waited until the whites had been served the bread and wine. Moreover, they were often educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries.”

Whites of South Boston boasted in 1847 that “not a single colored family” lived among them. Boston had her “Nigger Hill” and her “New Guinea,” Cincinnati her “Little Africa,” and New York and Philadelphia their comparable ghettoes – for which Richmond, Charleston, New Orleans, and St. Louis had no counterparts.”

(The Strange Career of Jim Crow, C. Vann Woodward, Oxford University Press, 1966 (original 1955), excerpts, pp. 17-19)

Grabbing Pennies Off the Southern Corpse

Sherman’s army occupied Savannah in late December, 1864 after Gen. William J. Hardee had evacuated his troops into South Carolina. Offshore and awaiting the occupation of the city by Sherman were US Treasury agents and others anxious to seize bales of cotton and other valuables for government or personal enrichment. In addition, presidential-aspirant Edwin M. Stanton presciently coveted the Negro vote in the South as Grant eventually did, and pretended concern for their future.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grabbing Pennies Off the Southern Corpse

“In making the rounds of the city [in late December, 1864, Sherman] was irritated to find that an agent of the [US] Treasury had arrived in the city ahead of him and seized a large stock of cotton there, estimated at 25,000 bales, later found to amount to 31,000 bales.

His chief annoyance . . . was from outside meddlers, agents from the North, the forerunners of the pestiferous army of carpetbaggers that swarmed into the South in the next few months and years. Some were sincere and fervent, but narrow-minded, zealots determined to impose salvation as decreed by the abolitionists upon the Negroes; many were greedy and unconscionable rascals bent upon seizing political power and grabbing the pennies off the Southern corpse.

[Sherman] . . . divined the developing purpose of the Radicals in Congress. It became apparent in the attitude suggested in hints let out here and there by the chief of the northern agents who descended upon Savannah while Sherman was there.

This was none other than Secretary of War Stanton, who hurried down by boat at the first opportunity to look the ground over. Stanton was fussy about many things, peeking here and there, prying, asking questions, seemingly deeply concerned about the Negro and his future, but in reality carefully measuring the political potentialities in this Southern tragedy, thus foretelling his action, a few months later, in joining the Radicals openly in their desperate and vicious Reconstruction program.

Sherman was most resentful when Stanton revealed his intention to quiz the Negroes about [Sherman’s] own policies . . . [and] witnesses upheld Sherman also in the firm policy he had adopted against recruiting Negroes for his army by State agents who rushed into Savannah and were trying to enlist Negroes right and left.

[Sherman] did not want to enlist any Negro soldiers, not only because of the bother of handling such unseasoned troops, but also because he had smarted under the taunts of Confederate General [John B.] Hood at Atlanta to the effect that the North had to use the South’s own Negro slaves to defeat the Confederacy.”

(The Savannah, More Than the Story of a River, Thomas L. Stokes, University of Georgia Press, 1951, excerpt, pp. 285-288)

 

South Carolina’s Legislature of Crooked Aliens

Like other conquered Southern States, South Carolinians at the close of the war found themselves within a Union not of their choosing, yet they we not “of” this Union. Their governor was a prisoner of war, they were under martial law, and would be soon under the rule of their former servants.  The Robert Small (or Smalls) mentioned below is credited with the theft of the steamer Planter during the war, and delivering it to the Northern fleet which was aiding and abetting the enemy, and treason against South Carolina.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina’s Legislature of Crooked Aliens

“In the [postwar South Carolina] Senate Chamber sat Major Corbin . . . a captain of Vermont troops badly wounded in the war and for a time in Libby prison, he had remained in military service until the end of the war and was then ordered to Charleston in charge of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

In the same body with Major [David T.] Corbin sat Robert Small, who while still a slave had won national fame as a pilot by running the Planter out of Charleston harbor to the Federal fleet. Some of the local black folk said that he did this in fear and trembling at the mouth of a loaded pistol leveled by a braver and more determined slave, one who never shared in the fame of the Planter exploit and was big enough not to care to.

Another of those South Carolina Senators was Beverly Nash. Black as charcoal . . . he was the perfect type of the antebellum ideal of a “white gentlemen’s colored gentleman.”

Besides those three . . . Senators, there was Leslie, once a member of the New York legislature, shrewd, crooked and cynical. And there was  [B.F.] Whittemore [of Massachusetts], who had got national notoriety while in Congress by selling a West Point cadetship for money instead of the customary price which was influence.

For the rest, the Senate floor was occupied by whites and blacks . . . But there was nobody of the old romantic type of South Carolina aristocrat. At the president’s desk sat a Negro, Lieutenant-Governor A.J. Ransier, who presided with dignity . . . A year or two before he died and [he was] working as a street cleaner in Columbia . . .

In the [House] chamber at the other end of the capitol building . . . were a great body of members, mostly Negroes. The body as a whole was in a legislative atmosphere so saturated with corruption that the honest and honorable members of either race had no more influence in it than an orchid might have in a mustard patch.”

(A “Carpetbagger” in South Carolina, Louis F. Post; Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Volume 10, January 1925, excerpts, pp. 15-17)

 

Suppose a Triumphant Confederate Government

The writer below left New York for South Carolina in November, 1870 for a position as a law clerk for a US Attorney and State Senator David Corbin, a New York native and fellow carpetbagger. Expecting to see “orange groves and palms” upon his arrival, the writer instead gazed upon blackened ruins “rudely shattered by a conquering foe.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppose a Triumphant Confederate Government

“Ten years after the secession of South Carolina and less than six after the close of the consequent Civil War between the States, I became a South Carolina “carpetbagger.” That is, I migrated from our “Empire” to the “Palmetto” State.

What I say [about carpetbaggers and scalawags] is said in no caviling temper. Whether to the debit or credit side, it must go to the account not of South Carolina nature in particular, but of human nature in general. No doubt the inhabitants of every other community in the world would in similar circumstances have acted as South Carolinians did. Take Massachusetts, for instance, the State which in those days and for two generations before was cross-matched with South Carolina in the harness of American politics.

Suppose the Confederacy had triumphed in the Civil War. Suppose it had not been satisfied with establishing secession of the Southern States, but had forcibly annexed the other States to the Confederacy under provisional governments subordinate to the Confederate authorities at Richmond. Suppose that in pursuit of this policy the Confederacy had placed Southern troops in Massachusetts, established bureaus in aid of foreign-born factory hands, unseated Massachusetts officials, and disenfranchised all voters of that aristocratic Commonwealth of New England who rejected an oath of allegiance they abhorred.

Suppose that in consequence Southern “fire eaters” and Massachusetts factory-hands had together got control of the State and local governments, had repealed laws for making foreign-born factory hands stay at home of nights and otherwise to “know their place,” and were criminally looting the treasury and recklessly piling State and county debts mountain high.

Suppose also that the same uncongenial folk were administering national functions under the patronage of a triumphant Confederate government at Richmond – the post offices, custom houses, internal revenue offices and all the rest. And suppose that this had been forcibly maintained by detachments of the victorious Confederate army, some of the garrisons being composed of troops recruited from alien-born factory hands.

Suppose moreover that there had been sad memories in Boston, as there were in fact in Charleston, of a mournful occasion less than ten years before, when the dead bodies of native young men of Brahmin breed to a number equaling 1 in 100 of the entire population of the city had lain upon a Boston wharf, battlefield victims of that same Confederate army now profoundly victorious. And suppose that weeds had but recently grown in Tremont Street as rank as in an unfarmed field, because it had been in range of Confederate shells under a daily bombardment for two years.

I am imagining those conditions in no criticism of Federal post-war policies with reference to the South nor as any slur upon the factory hands of New England, but for the purpose of creating the state of mind capable of understanding the South Carolina of 1871 by contrasting what in either place would at the time have been regarded as “upper“ and “lowest” class. If my suppositions do not reach the imagination, try to picture a conquest of your own State by Canada, and fill in the picture with circumstances analogous to those in which South Carolina was plunged at the time of which I write.”

(A “Carpetbagger” in South Carolina, Louis F. Post; Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Volume 10, January 1925, excerpts, pp. 11-12)

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

Author M.E. Bradford wrote that in America, “race (at last as far as the Negro is concerned) has proved to be an almost indestructible identity,” and has led to us stepping away from cherished liberties. He goes on that despite its ill-effect upon our original principles, it was predictable “that liberty, as our tradition understands the term, should begin to reassert its original hegemony, that the oldest of liberties honored among us – rights grounded in the fundament of English inheritance” shall return to favor, “though in new disguises.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

“Jefferson’s fire bell sounded in the legislative darkness, tolling the “knell” of the Union he had so much helped to shape. After Missouri, States achieved full membership in the federal compact only after meeting federally determined prescriptions concerning the status of blacks within their boundaries – conditions not imposed upon the original thirteen and without real precedent in the Northwest Ordinance.

Predictably, Jefferson’s Union did die – in 1861. And in the latter stages of its ruin, the connection between blacks and American millennialism intensified. With Equality (capital E) the new Republic played some verbal and opportunistic games. I leave aside for the moment the merits and demerits of this “second founding.”

For, once completed . . . the Trojan horse of our homegrown Jacobinism was rolled away to some back stall within the stable of received American doctrines. Emancipation appeared to have changed nothing substantial in the basic confederal framework. Neither did it attempt any multiracial miracles.

Most certainly, New England has had its high expectations of a City on a Hill; likewise, even the South owed, from its earliest days, some inertia to a hope of Eden over the sea. Moreover, in company with the frontier States, both regions drew comfort from the idea of a “manifest destiny.” Yet the total nation has, characteristically, despised and rejected who or whatever aspired to dragoon its way to such beatitudes through the instruments of Federal policy.

The only full exception to this rule, I insist, is the “civil rights revolution” of the past thirty years. In connection with the difficult question of the Negro’s place within our social compact, an imperative was discovered, stronger than any ever pressed upon us before: there discovered because the Negro’s lot within that compact was so difficult (and so slow) to improve.

With it we have made fair to force the issue, even if liberty (and its correlatives: law, localism and personalism) loses much of its authority as a term of honor: is diminished especially insofar as it applies to that nondescript but substantial many who captain, man and propel the ship of state.

Of course, as Lenin wrote, the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally. And Lenin’s advice does not function inside our curious native dialect. The only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before a law with limited scope.

In 1820 . . . we took an initial step away from liberty; in 1861-1877, a few more. And from these examples, from our uneasiness at the – to the millennialist sensibility — greatest of built-in American “scandals,” in the post-World War II era we arrived at converting at least one feature of millennialism into a positive goal. To use the late William Faulkner’s idiom we set out to “abolish” the Negro we knew, both as a presences and a problem. The results begin to speak for themselves, the fresh set of insoluble dilemmas which, with each dawning day, cry out for more potent magic than the cures for yesterday’s injustice which spawned them into existence in the first place.”

(Remembering Who We Are; Observations of a Southern Conservative, M.E. Bradford, UGA Press, 1985, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan of New York wrote Calhoun in 1848 that “The feeling toward [the Negro] in the North is decidedly that of hostility. There is no respect for them. No wish for their elevation; but on the contrary a strong desire to prevent the multiplication of the race as far as it is possible to do so . . .” Former New York Governor (and later Union Major-General] John Adams Dix spoke of the “inferior caste” in free States: “Public opinion at the North – call it prejudice if you will – presents an insuperable barrier against its elevation in the social scale . . . A class thus degraded . . . will not multiply . . .” Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot in mid-1846 introduced a bill to ban African slavery from land acquired from Mexico.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

“Closely interwoven with the northern fear of [Southern political] dominance was fear of the Negro himself, and the [Wilmot] Proviso, commonly called the “White Man’s Resolution” by the free-soilers, seems to have expressed a northern desire to keep the territories free not only of slaves, but of the black race.

The rhetoric of the free-soil movement is replete with expressions of hostility toward the Negro. One of the most notable instances occurs in James Russell Lowell’s allegorical treatment of the territorial issue in his enormously popular “Bigelow Papers.”

In this poem Lowell represents the Negroes as “long-legged swine” who ruin the territories, making them uninhabitable for the northern farmer. Anti-Negro expressions also found their way into free-soil platforms, albeit in muted form. The Barnburners Utica [New York] Convention called for preserving the western land “for the Caucasian race,” or in the more popular parlance of Thomas Hart Benton “keeping the territory clean of Negroes.”

One free-soiler assured the House of Representatives that he had little concern for “the degraded and degenerate blacks.”

Northern hostility toward the Negro is likewise revealed in the vehement response to a proposal by Governor William Smith of Virginia to export the State’s freedmen to the North. In his speech representing the great dangers involved in rejecting the Wilmot Proviso, [New York Congressman] George Rathbun referred incidentally to Governor Smith’s proposal.

“What do we say [to it]?” asked Rathbun. He gave the answer: “That there is no territory in the free States belonging to them [the Negroes]; that there is no place for them. As far as New York is concerned, should the refuse part of the population of Virginia reach our territory, we will carry them back to Virginia.”

Smith’s proposal caused such consternation in Ohio that the Democratic minority in the State legislature was almost able to force through a law prohibiting Negro immigration altogether. One Democratic congressman from Ohio . . . appealing to the fear and hatred of the Negro in the North, used Smith’s proposal as a justification for bowing to the will of the South on the Proviso question.

In the North, where the Negro population was relatively small, the means of assuring white supremacy was to exclude the Negro, and when he could not be physically excluded, he was excluded from civic life.

The key to the strong emotional commitment in the North to free soil was the overwhelming fear of the extension of an alien race, as well as of an alien institution, to the point where it would directly affect the Northern people. The Wilmot Proviso had such a strong appeal precisely because it expressed the Northern determination to prevent the spread not only of slavery but of the despised Negro as well.”

(Democratic Politics and Sectionalism, the Wilmot Proviso Controversy, Chaplain W. Morrison, UNC Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 70-73)

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